Austria uncovers new human trafficking ring

31 August 2011 - 19:41 By Sapa-AFP

Austrian police stopped over 50 illegals from Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and Iraq, bringing to five the number of smuggling rings uncovered in just over a week, authorities said Wednesday.

Austrian police stopped over 50 illegals from Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and Iraq, bringing to five the number of smuggling rings uncovered in just over a week, authorities said Wednesday.

A Hungarian driver was stopped Tuesday during a routine border check as he tried to smuggle 18 Turkish Kurds and Iraqi refugees into Austria, police said.

In a separate case, police then picked up 35 illegals on Wednesday in Vienna, after being alerted by a passer-by who spotted the group.

The refugees, who stemmed from India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, were accompanied by two Afghans, believed to be their smugglers.

In Tuesday's case, the refugees, including a pregnant woman and an eight-month-old baby, were discovered crammed in the windowless back of a small van without food or water.

They were believed to have paid between 2,000 and 4,000 euros ($2,888 and $5,776) to be brought to either Germany, Austria or Switzerland.

From Serbia, they crossed the border to Hungary on foot, before boarding the van for the onward trip, the police said.

The driver has since been placed in custody while investigators were looking for possible accomplices.

These latest cases bring to over 180 the number of illegals discovered by Austrian police in five smuggling attempts in just over a week.

On August 23, 70 refugees from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan were found piled into two vans by 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit).

On Monday, police then uncovered 30 Afghans, including children, hidden below the floorboards of a Greek tourist bus and among the passengers.

The same day, 30 refugees from Somalia were picked up in eastern Burgenland province where their smugglers had abandoned them shortly after crossing the border from Hungary.

The sudden surge of cases urged Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner Wednesday to urge further cross-border cooperation in fighting smuggling.

"The external (EU) borders are too permeable, the measures within the EU half-hearted," she said.

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